Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Pippi Longstocking"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey

Joyful "Pipi"
at Wheelock"

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

Her stockings are striped and long. Her pigtails are arched like wings. She's a "thing finder", a school disrupter and a "terror of the seas". She's Pippi Longstocking, Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's celebrated enfant terrible. The children's books have been cobbled together for the stage --- translated and musicalized by Thomas Olson, truda Stockenstrom and Roberta Carlson --- but the earsplitting electronic music is (thankfully) minimal and grieg's gorgeous "Anitra's Dance" from "Peer Gynt" proves the perfect ballet melody for a dream in which Pippi is reunited with her parents.

Children in the audience immediately recognize Pippi's naughty adventures: She can outwit, outfight and outrun the police, schoolteachers, and welfare workers. She outwrestles a circus strongman and reduces many an adult to smithereens. No wonder children adore her.

Adults need not despair at the drubbing. The Wheelock Family Theatre's joyous production is directed by Susan Kosoff --- which means there will be plenty for parents to marvel at. Kosoff constructs clever tableaux vivantes which spring hilariously to life and disperse like cartoons. Laurel Stachowicz' choreography is delightfully wacky and the performances are stellar, proving that children's theater can be as well done as Shakespeare.

A dynamo named Caitlin Wheeler electrifies the stage as Pippi. Yvonne Murphy and Shelly Bolman as pippi's true blue friends nearly steal the show --- esp. Murphy's meltdown and Bolman's blubbery poem ... as does Maureen Keiller as Pippi's nemesis, the dreaded social worker. Jenn Pina looks like Olive Oyl and shatters like a glass tube when Pippi goes to work.

What fun to see Pippi confound Doug Lockwood and Robert Saoud --- Saoud's whole body exudes exasperation! Ricardo Engerman is a charming (and smart) hobby horse and a foiled strongman. (Engerman seems to fly through the air in every production he's in! Do the Guiness folks know about this?) Mansur, too, gets the stuffing knocked out of him as Pippi hurls grown men about willy-nilly.

Calliope Pina Parker is an adorable monkey and harold Withee a silly, blundering robber (who's no match for Pippi). Gamalia Pharms gets both a pants- and a dress-role this time. J.H. Williston makes a magnificent Pirate. (Oh that Wheelock would do "The Pirates of Penzance"!) Karen Clark, Laura johnson and Jane Staab hobble about as little old ladies ripe for a mocking.

Danila Korogodsky's A-Frame set (with Mondrian squares) makes a nifty jungle gym for Pippi and monkey to scale. Sideways it becomes a pirate ship, but turning it front to back made little difference. Wheelock is pulling out all the stops for school vacation week with lots of daytime performances and a magic show to boot.

"Pippi Longstocking" (???)
180 the Riverway, BOSTON
1(617) 734-4760 1(617) 879-2147

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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